NIH to offer training

The National Institutes of Health next week plans to launch a training course in recent procurement and information technology management reforms that it expects will eventually be open to students from throughout the government and from industry.

Jefferson Solutions LLC a subcontractor to Cordant Inc. with NIH's Chief Information Officer Solutions and Partners (CIO-SP) program developed the three-day course under a $50 000 task order and will present a pilot version of the course to NIH employees beginning next Monday.

The course aims to train federal and private-sector contracting officials and program managers how to make use of CIO-SP and two other government-wide multiple-award contracting programs: ImageWorld and the Electronic Computer Store.

NIH decided to offer the course at the request of Steven Kelman administrator of the Office of Federal Procurement Policy who asked agencies sponsoring these types of contracts to train their customers how to write performance-based work statements and manage vendors' work. The Defense Department and the Transportation Department are planning or are already offering training courses to customers of the Defense Enterprise Integration Services (DEIS) II and Information Technology Omnibus Procurement (ITOP) contracts respectively.

But the NIH course goes beyond training in performance-based contracting providing background about the new procurement environment as well as practice in a variety of acquisition planning and management techniques.

"The regulations are new " said Leamon Lee NIH's associate director for administration. "Some of the contracting officers have not been up to date on these procedures and processes [and] we think you need to understand that so it can better help you."

"We're helping them with some tools they will be able to use to feel comfortable" using new-style contracts said Allan Burman president of Jefferson Solutions.

The firm received the award as part of the minimum order guaranteed to each prime contractor according to NIH program manager Manny De Vera.

Elements of the course called "Solutions Contracting " will focus on cost/benefit analysis and business process re-engineering in addition to performance-based contracting and management.

Students will also learn about such new contracting issues as multiple-award contracts vendor past performance oral presentations buying commercial technology and electronic commerce.

The Money Factor

Lee said NIH has not yet determined how it will finance the course although there has been some discussion about whether to charge each student a fee.

Another approach being considered would involve using the administrative fee NIH charges to users of its contracts to pay for the classes or some other source.

DOD and Transportation are both using this financing method which essentially lets customers take the classes for free. Kelman said he favors this approach because it is one way for agencies to conserve their limited training budgets.

NIH would be the only agency among the three to offer the classes to vendors. The mixed audience "is going to get people to perhaps have a little more empathy with what the other guy has to deal with " Burman said and it will encourage better relationships between federal employees and contractors.

Heather Rosenker a spokeswoman for the Professional Services Council said industry is hungry for information about how to do business under the new procurement regime.

"I'm sure anyone interested in doing work with NIH would love to know the ins and the outs of how they would do it " she said.

Mary Sloper chief of the DEIS II management office with the Defense Information Systems Agency agreed that "industry needs to know about performance-based service contracting" but said DOD will not open its course to vendors because it is being financed with customers' administrative fees.

NIH has not determined how often it will offer its course after the pilot.

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